Bernini Palace: the three “faces” of the restaurant and its dining room tell their stories
Together, the three of them can boast a total of sixty years practising their profession. For manager David Foschi, waiters Marusca Cheli, Bartolo Bacciotti and Federica Serra are the mainstays of the hotel, a guarantee of service quality and client care. Their ability to establish a rapport with guests from all over the world transforms a breakfast, lunch or a dinner into a special experience, one that’s worth coming back to repeat.
Do you remember your first day at the Bernini Palace?
Marusca Cheli _ More than twenty years have gone by. To think that I came to work here basically by chance, since I picked the hotel out from the telephone book. The first impression was excellent. At first, I replaced the barman and took care of breakfasts. My studies in foreign languages and the fact that my mother and I used to run a bar immediately came in handy.
Bartolo Bacciotti _ The date’s engraved in my memory, it was April 1 2001. I remember the emotion: I was coming here after an experience in another hotel and I was very keen to make a good impression. I was the new kid on the block but my colleagues all gave me a warm welcome and supported me from the outset.
Federica Serra _ Exactly 19 years have gone by. I had done my catering school internship here and after that, they asked me to work a season. Then, when I got my diploma, they took me on as a trainee and I’ve never left. This really is a home from home for me.
A restaurant and its dining room have very precise rules, especially in a prestigious hotel. Which, in your view, are the most important?
Marusca Cheli _ The first rule is professionalism, the ability to interact with people with a smile, politely but not in a stilted fashion. We have guests from all over the world and always try to anticipate and meet their requests.
Bartolo Bacciotti _ First and foremost, we have to think about our clients, anticipating their needs and helping them to enjoy their experience. This is why so many of them come back, sometimes after a gap of three or four years. We have created memories together and they feel at home here.
Federica Serra _ Guests come back if we have established a positive rapport with them, based on respect. We always remember regulars’ preferences and we can see the satisfaction on their faces. There’s a French lady, for example, who comes regularly, and she asks after my family every time. It’s a sort of recognition and it makes me happy.
When you’re travelling or when you eat out, what are the first things you note about the service?
Marusca Cheli _ When I travel, I manage to detach myself from the job for a moment. I do note technical errors but I don’t regard them as being as important as the human rapport that underpins everything. Warmth and emotion are even more important than impeccable form. What I do regard as inexcusable is bad manners.
Bartolo Bacciotti _ The way in which the waiting staff present themselves. I look for a smile and professionalism and the ability to anticipate my requests. I also note the coordination between dining room and kitchen from tiny details: if people work well together, they create a harmony and emotion that are transmitted to the tables. The guest is like a mirror.
Federica Serra _ Interactions between people are revealing: I look for a smile and small acts of kindness. Even when I’m travelling, I always notice whether clients receive a warm welcome and get pampered during the service. This is something that applies fto every type and level of restaurant, because kindness is a universal language.
What are the first three things you check to see if a lunch table is perfectly set?
Marusca Cheli _ The first impression and general perception say everything. Visually, I immediately look for symmetry in the position of the chairs and pleasing, harmonious aesthetics. The higher the level of the place, the greater the attention to detail should be.
Bartolo Bacciotti _ You note precision and cleanliness immediately. You notice if the cutlery isn’t straight, if a cup handle is the wrong way round, if the table wobbles, if the tablecloth isn’t well aligned. With experience, this spirit of observation becomes second nature.
Federica Serra _ The mise en place is the first thing you notice when you walk into a dining room. For the expert eye it’s like a signature. We always know who has set the tables by the way in which the tablecloth is folded, the position of the cutlery and the glasses and so on. Perfection doesn’t rule out a personal touch.
What’s your favourite memory of your career at the Bernini Palace?
Marusca Cheli _ I’ve had the good fortune to meet nice people, and I’ve kept in touch with lots of colleagues even when they’ve changed jobs. The human factor is the aspect I attach most importance to. Many of my fondest memories are connected with God Save the Wine, the event we organise every year, when the hotel comes to life in a special Christmas light. Clients always tell us they love it.
Bartolo Bacciotti _ My most intense memory will be the one I take home with me the day I stop working here. I really am fond of this place. I’ve met so many people. I remember Lucio Dalla opening the door at seven o’clock in the morning in his beanie with a cigarette in his mouth, Sophia Loren during room service, President Shimon Perez with his “tasters”, ready to lunch in the Parliament Room.
Federica Serra _ I have a lot of memories. One of the most precious is tied to the period in which I was still settling in and I’d only been here for a few months. IN those days the hotel published a magazine which it left in the rooms at the disposal of guests. My name appeared in one issue since I’d been chosen as the employee of the month. I remember being amazed at this unexpected recognition and taking the magazine home and sharing my joy with my family.